100 Fascinating Facts About Westchester County



(page 10 of 10)

Photos courtesy of Library of Congress

 

91. The “Cradle of the American Circus” is… Somers? Hachaliah Bailey erected The Elephant Hotel, a Somers landmark, after the death of his first African Elephant, Old Bet. The elephant had originally been destined for a life of farm work, but he attracted so much attention that his farm home evolved into a circus show with a number of exotic animals.

92. Hastings-on-Hudson, a town of just 8,000, has been home to five Nobel laureates, and two of them were graduates of Hastings’s high schools.

Photo by CDR Michael Cosgrove


93. From 1953 to 1973, the USS Westchester County carried tanks for amphibious assault operations in the Korean and Vietnam wars. The Wesco, as her crew called her, was sold to Turkey in 1974 and renamed Serdar, which means “Commander.” It remained in commission until January 2011.

94. According to the Journal News, it was Mount Vernon native Lt. Ira Palm who led a raid on Adolph Hitler’s Munich apartment in the spring of 1945. The dictator was hiding in Berlin, but, as a result of the expedition, Lt. Palm came back to the States with a gold-plated pistol bearing the initials “AH.” Palm, known as “Teen,” grew up on South Eighth Street and was about to embark on a college football career when a car crash in 1932 forced him to shift to music. He played at the famed Glen Island Harbour Club and married Helen Raney, all before the war. He died in 1966 after a career in the Army.

95. A vast swath of what now makes up Eastchester, Mount Vernon, and parts of the Bronx was purchased by New York City merchant Richard Morris in 1670. His legendary descendents included Lewis Morris (a chief justice of the New York Supreme Court who also served as a governor of both New York and New Jersey) and a later relative, also named Lewis, who signed the Declaration of Independence. Gouverneur Morris, a great-grandnephew, is widely assumed to have written the preamble to the Constitution, and other of Richard’s progeny married into families like the Van Cortlandts and the Van Rensselaers. Morris Avenue and the Morrisania section, both in the Bronx, are named for the family.

96. In 1923, New York City anarchist Harry Kelly purchased land on Lake Mohegan that had once belonged to a General in the Continental Army. Kelly and his associates formed an anarchist commune there, and the school it established continued on for many years, educating children based on so-called broad “liberal or libertarian principles.” The community stood on 450 acres on the south shore of the lake.

97. There are 12 colleges headquartered in Westchester: Westchester Community College, The College of Westchester, Mercy College, Pace University (see No. 41), Sarah Lawrence, Manhattanville College, Purchase College, Iona College, Concordia College, The College of Westchester, Monroe College, and The College of New Rochelle.


98. Revolutionary Road, the 2008 Kate Winslet–Leonardo DiCaprio film that set a new standard for bleakness in the suburban-discontent drama, was based on a 1961 book by Richard Yates and, like the book, was set in a fictional Connecticut ’burb. Yates, though, grew up in Ossining, blocks from the real-life Revolutionary Road (it runs parallel to Route 9), in a house that would later be lived in by another of our great purveyors of quiet desperation among the manicured lawns: John Cheever.

99. And the Ossining beat goes on: when Mad Men’s Drapers resided in Ossining, they lived on the fictional street of Bullet Park, an allusion to the 1967 Cheever novel of the same name.

 

100. As of this writing, 16 Westchester male residents, all of them either in the Army or Marine Corps, have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

 

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